Friday, October 30, 2015

Robagogy - Imitating and exploring

Just saw this new article on how human children mix imitation and exploration entitled Imitation and Innovation: The Dual Engines of Cultural Learning.  It seems that the level to which they rely on imitation is reduced reliably with increased performance.  This should inform our work on robot learning.
This and similar insights from psychology makes me think we should define a new field of robagogy, meaning 'how to teach robots'.  This area should be informed by pedagogy 'how to teach children' and the less popular andragogy or 'how to teach adults'.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Beyond Random Motor Babbling: How to explore when learning behaviors

Humans can learn or improve skills by practicing, e.g., tennis strokes improve as you spend time whacking balls against a wall.  This process is likely to involve exploration of a problem space, in the case of tennis, trying different the actuator values to develop appropriate responses to a range of different ball trajectories and speeds.

In robot skill learning, an important question is 'how do we do this exploration?'  Many papers use random motor babbling [refs], typically within a safe envelope of values and most commonly with a flat probability distribution within each range [refs].  It is highly unlikely that this is how humans and animals explore.

It has been recognised for some time [ref] that system noise can provide sufficient variability to support exploration leading to the identification of effective solutions.  Pinheiro et al. [1] just showed that such variability is also a sufficient requirement for learning new skills in humans.
Think more about using this to inspire new, biologically more plausible, exploration strategies for robot learning.

[1] João de Paula Pinheiro, Pricila Garcia Marques, Go Tani and Umberto Cesar Corrêa (2015) Diversification of motor skills rely upon an optimal amount of variability of perceptive and motor task demands.  In Adaptive Behavior, (only online so far ).